After many years from the late 1960s through the 1990s developing commercial real estate hotels, motels and apartments, Bigelow founded Bigelow Aerospace in 1999
In his real estate career, Bigelow built approximately 15,000 units, and purchased another 8,000. For most of his career, “he held on to almost everything he bought, but … eventually unload[ed] much of his housing stock in the boom years immediately before the 2008 crash”. In 2013, Bigelow reflected on this: “People just really wanted to throw money away, … So that was lucky.”
In 1995, Bigelow founded the National Institute for Discovery Science to research and advance study of various fringe sciences and paranormal topics, most notably ufology. The organization researched cattle mutilation and black triangle reports, ultimately attributing the latter to the military. The institute was disbanded in 2004.
Bigelow has indicated that he plans to spend up to US$500 million to develop the first commercial space station, the amount that NASA expended on a single space shuttle mission.:10
Bigelow Aerospace has launched two experimental space modules, Genesis I and Genesis II, and has plans for full-scale manned space habitats to be used as orbital hotels, research labs and factories.
Bigelow’s BEAM module was launched to the International Space Station on April 8, 2016, on the eighth SpaceX cargo resupply mission.
In 2013, Bigelow indicated that the reason he went into the commercial real estate business was to obtain the requisite resources to be able to fund a team developing space destinations.
Bigelow was interviewed on Coast to Coast AM in March 2013. In May 2017, Bigelow appeared on CBS’ 60 Minutes and said he was “absolutely convinced” there have been extraterrestrial visitors to Earth.
In October 2017, Bigelow announced that he planned to put an inflatable “space hotel” into orbit by 2022. The plan is part of partnership with United Launch Alliance, and the project is estimated to cost $2.3bn in total.
Bigelow was reported by the New York Times in December, 2017 to have urged Senator Harry Reid to initiate what became the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program, a government study which reportedly operated from 2007 to 2012 tasked with the study of UFOs. According to the New York Times, Bigelow said he was “absolutely convinced” that aliens exist and that U.F.O.s have visited Earth.